Solid Hardwood Floors – are a solid piece of hardwood cut into wood planks that are generally 3/4″ thick. (Above ground level areas only, not recommended for concrete slabs.) Engineered Hardwood Floors – are several plies of wood that a glued and laminated together to form a wood plank. They range in thickness from 1/4″ to just over a half inch. (Can be installed almost anywhere in the home, including over dry concrete slabs.)
Longstrip Hardwood Floors – are really an engineered construction but are much longer and wider. The top layer of a longstrip plank generally has 2-3 rows of thin hardwood strips spliced together to form a solid surface. This gives the appearance of having 2-3 planks locked together, but it is really just one board. Longstrip planks can be glued-down, stapled or floated over a wide variety of sub-floors and installed in almost any area of the home. This includes installing over dry concrete slabs.
Exotic Hardwood Floors – are used to described hardwood species from around the World. these hardwoods are not found in North America and come from Australia, Africa, Brazil and the Far East. Exotic hardwoods offer unique wood graining and colorations. Most exotic floors are available in engineered wood construction but some are available in solid hardwood planks as well.
Once installed it is extremely difficult to tell these three different wood flooring construction types apart. Both the engineered and the longstrip have several thin layers (plies) of wood that are glued together. By gluing the plies together you get better dimensional stability within the plank itself, which allows these floors to be used on job sites that have a higher percentage of moisture content than normal. This includes basements and over concrete slabs where solid strip wood floors are considered off limits.
Another choice you have to make is whether to want a pre-finished or an unfinished hardwood floor that has to be finished in your home. The pre-finished floors offer a wider variety of wood species and saves hours of labor and cleanup. While the unfinished wood floors allow you to have a really custom, job-site finish and a completely smooth, uniform surface.
You also get an extended factory finish warranty with pre-finished floors, but not with most job-site finished flooring.
Solid wood planks are cut out as a solid block right from the tree. They are then processed into solid flooring planks with tongue and grooves edges. The planks are than either pre-finished at the factory or placed into unfinished bundles.
All solid wood floors will react to the presence of moisture. In the winter heating months the lack of humidity can cause solid wood floors to contract which leaves unsightly gaps between each plank. In the summer months when the humidity is higher the wood planks will expand and the gapping will disappear.
If there is too much moisture present the wood planks may cup or buckle. This is why it is so important to leave the proper expansion gap along all vertical walls and to acclimate the solid wood planks prior to installation. (Engineered wood floors are not affected by humidity as much as solid wood floors.)